Fás wrote off over €1m on temporary office, inquiry told

Fás wrote off more than €1m on a temporary office in Offaly and is selling a site it bought for €1.5 million for just €150,000.

The Public Accounts Committee heard that the temporary office in Birr, which housed just 17 people, was leased for 10 years in 2004 with an annual rent of €100,000 as part of the Fianna Fáil governments doomed decentralisation programme.

However, Fás had to write off some €1.1m it had invested into the temporary office in fixtures and fittings, after the decentralisation project was shelved.

While the temporary office was in operation, Fás also shelled out €1.5m on purchasing a site in Birr on which to build a permanent headquarters.

It has now put this greenfield site up for sale with a slashed minimum price tag of just €150,000.

Speaking at the committee hearing, Labour’s Derek Nolan hit out the waste of millions of euro in taxpayers’ money.

“In order to implement the decentralisation policy, 17 people were put in an office in Birr at a rent of €100,000 a year, a site for €1.5 million was bought which is now worth €150,000, five years into it the lease was broken (resulting in) a capital write-off of €1.1m in 2012. It seems to me to be an extraordinary waste of money for no benefit as part of a decentralisation policy that was questionable to begin with.”

The committee also heard two out of three internal investigations within Fás have been reported to the Garda. One investigation concerned a jobs initiative in Tipperary involving the “potential inappropriate” expenditure of €150,000.

Director general of Fás Paul O’Toole said the scheme now came under the control of the Department of Social Protection and the Fás report had been forwarded to the Garda to ascertain if the matters raised in the investigation “were of the criminal nature”.

The second investigation examined ineligible expenditure of €28,000 relating to the years 2004 to 2007. The report on the investigation was forwarded to the Department of Social Protection for follow-up and the Garda have also been informed.

The third review related to the renting of a property in Tolka Valley Business Park. It concluded that appropriate procedures had not been followed in procuring a lease at an annual cost of €42,000.

Two leases were signed in 2001 and 2007. The person responsible for the signing of the leases retired in 2008 but was not reprimanded.

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald said it was “astounding” that a person could just retire after such “corporate negligence and sloppiness”.


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